Bram Stoker is largely credited with spreading, and popularizing, our modern conception of the vampire through his infernal creation, Count Dracula. Stoker was inspired after reading a history of Wallachia’s crown prince, Vlad III. For modern day Romanians, Vlad is a modern day folk hero, and an emblem of defiance in the face of oppression. To his ancient enemies, however, like the Ottoman Turks, Vlad was vilified for his brutal military tactics, and use of psychological warfare. Posthumously dubbed “The Impaler,” Vlad III was notorious for impaling thousands of prisoners after a victory, as both a deterrent and a warning. One account from an Ottoman general described approaching Vlad’s encampment only to find a sea of over 20,000 impaled bodies, screams, and blood. The general himself, a hardened soldier, retreated horrified and nauseated. Stoker’s idea for the name Dracula comes from the name of Vlad’s ancient house, Draculesti, which translates as “Order of The Dragon.” The Order of the Dragon was a secret order of knights fervently dedicated to protecting christianity in Eastern Europe, at whatever the cost, including the loss of life. Despite the superficial similarities between Dracula the man, and Dracula the vampire, its important to distinguish between the two. While the historical Dracula was captured and beheaded by his country’s oppressors, the Dracula of legend escaped death via a pact with the devil. Although “Dracula’s Guest” is the story where the character of Dracula is first introduced, the story was scrapped by Stoker, and only released two years after his death. Today, the story is considered by many scholars to be the original first chapter of Stoker’s famous novel. The story chronicles the escapades of an unnamed narrator, who we can assume is the protagonist, Jonathan Harker, from the novel, Dracula. In the countryside outside Munich on Walpurgis Night--a night associated with witch gatherings in Northern Europe--the narrator decides to travel a desolate road leading to an abandoned village of ill-repute, despite the protests of his coach driver. Cloaked in his protective mantle of rationality, the unnamed narrator happily, and somewhat condescendingly, dismisses his driver’s concerns, remarking that “ Walpurgis Nacht does not concern Englishmen.” His confidence flags, however, as the weather slowly takes a turn for the sinister, and he stumbles upon the reanimated body of a long dead countess, and other dark things that the night holds.
This piece would work best as part of a lesson on the conventions of gothic fiction. It also makes a great piece as part of a lesson on writing style, because of the suspenseful writing. For this reason, it makes a good piece for student writers to try and emulate.
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “gothic?” What qualities do you think “gothic fiction” possesses? Jot down a short list of your ideas.
How does the mood of the text shift when the main character starts to walk towards the abandoned village? How does Stoker’s description of the weather also reflect this shift? (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3)
At what point in the narrative does the author introduce suspense? Use specific examples from the text to support your answer. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.6)
Judging from the author’s characterization of the protagonist, would the protagonist believe a supernatural occurrence happened or would there be some other explanation?
What is implied about the nature of the wolf encountered by the protagonist? And what connection, if any, do you see between the behavior of the wolf and the strange warning message sent by Count Dracula?
How would you describe the difference in attitudes towards the supernatural between the native Germans, and the English protagonist? And what do these differences suggest? Use the text to support your answer.
Connections in Text
Compare the vampires described in “Dracula’s Guest” to any modern rendition of vampires found in literature, movies, and television. What do these vampires have in common? And in what way are they different? Overall, how would you describe people’s attitudes towards vampires?
This link provides teachers with a number of supplemental activities and ideas to accompany “Dracula’s Guest” and, or, the novel Dracula.
This link provides students with a short, but concise history of vampires in Eastern Europe.
G8 Challenging Vocabulary: acrid (8), pique (8), tremor (8), commence/commencement (7), conscious (7), impel (7), zeal (7), bear (6), century (6), command (6), comrade (6), concern (6), consider/considerably (6), crude (6), desolate/desolation (6), despair (6), fascinate/fascination (6), fringe (6), indefinite/indefinitely (6), indeed (6), period (6), plateau (6), sympathy (6)
G6 Challenging Vocabulary: bear (6), century (6), command (6), comrade (6), concern (6), consider/considerably (6), crude (6), desolate/desolation (6), despair (6), fascinate/fascination (6), fringe (6), indefinite/indefinitely (6), indeed (6), period (6), plateau (6), sympathy (6), bitter (5), cautious (5), cease (5), compose (5), concern (5), custom (5), desert (5), distant (5), dominate (5), merge (5), motion (5), narrate/narration (5), nick (5), philosophy (5), sacred (5), utter (5), weary (5), agony (4), appear (4), depart (4), dread/dreadful (4), drift (4), fashion (4), glisten (4), offend (4), perspire (4), puff (4), vague (4)
G4 Challenging Vocabulary: agony (4), appear (4), depart (4), dread/dreadful (4), drift (4), fashion (4), glisten (4), offend (4), perspire (4), puff (4), vague (4), accompany (3), afar (3), alarm (3), belief (3), blend (3), carriage (3), cloak (3), couple (3), edge (3), fright (3), hollow (3), howl (3), indicate (3), native (3), pant (3), paralyze (3), precious (3), protest (3), restrain (3), scatter (3), suspect (3), torment (3), tremble (3), twilight (3), valley (3), wind (3), coat (2), direction (2), echo (2), fierce (2), fool/foolish (2), examine (2), indicate (2), jaw (2), journey (2), language (2), marble (2), mumble (2), pet (2), polite (2), rapid/rapidly (2), raise (2), serious (2), shelter (2), shiver (2), shrug (2), sniff (2), spark (2), struggle (2), suffer (2), surface (2), tomb (2), tornado (2), tradition (2)
G2 Challenging Vocabulary: coat (2), direction (2), echo (2), fool/foolish (2), language (2), marble (2), mumble (2), pet (2), polite/politely (2), raise (2), serious (2), shelter (2), shiver (2), shrug (2), suffer (2), tomb (2), tornado (2), tradition (2), afraid (1), argue (1), beg (1), bright (1), bury (1), celebrate (1), cheek (1), continue (1), cross (1), country (1), earth (1), empty (1), evening (1), destroy (1), road (1), question (1), scare (1), shine (1), silver (1), sniff (1), wide (1), alone (0), always (0), answer (0), bark (0), cloud (0), cold (0), good (0), hat (0), home (0), horse (0), laugh (0), mouth (0), sky (0), snow (0), summer (0), touch (0), walk (0), wind (0), wish (0), wood (0)